Woolfe – The Red Hood Diaries is a sweet gem of a platformer. As the name suggests, The Red Hood Diaries derives its narrative from the well-known story, Little Red Riding Hood. A combination of fairy tale imagery, industrial environments, and a retro-modern vibe craft a unique fantasy environment, the better to play within.
A quick backstory explains that Red Hood’s home town of Ulrica has fallen under the maniacal control of factory owner and businessman B.B. Woolfe. Red Hood’s father worked for Woolfe, and was killed under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter, Hood’s mother disappeared. We meet Red Riding Hood, who might seem diminutive in stature, but I’d hate to call her “little.” Rather, she’s independent, vengeful, and swings an axe as perfectly as Jack Torrance. This is certainly not the Little Red Riding Hood from days of old. Nor is her story a fairy tale, and as she puts it “…nothing is fair here [Ulrica].”
Gone is the naïve, helpless Red Riding Hood, replaced by this badass character. Despite Red Hood’s explanation that this is no fairy tale, there are certainly many fantasy elements which harken back to such narratives. Hood’s narration arrives in a rhyming patter, like twisted Mother Goose lyrics. Combined with the dark atmosphere, there’s a hint of American McGee’s Alice, an unavoidable comparison. Yet “Woolfe” is much more action-oriented, rather than the predominantly horror American McGee’s Alice.
As in the fairy tale, Red Hood dons the obligatory red cape, and her grandma even prepares a pleasant picnic basket, complete with baguette, wind bottle, and red-white checkered blanket. What a sweet grandmother. Clearly she isn’t related to me. Mixed in with the traditional imagery is steampunk streak, evident in the harsh industrial environments that invade the quaint thatched-roof buildings, and Woolfe’s mechanical soldiers. This latter aspect recalls Syberia. The traditional depictions meshed with darker tones and physical settings lend Woolfe – The Red Hood Diaries a retro-modern feel.
However, it’s interesting to note that the original iterations of Grimms’ fairy tales were often, well, grim. So the sterilized, Disney versions we’re fed are actually less accurate. In a way, “The Red Hood Diaries” is a simultaneous new direction and throwback, mixing classic images and novel concepts. At this point, the Little Red Riding Hood’s general origin story isn’t new. However, Woolfe – The Red Hood Diaries loosely adapts Red Riding Hood’s narrative into a world of industrialization, martial law, and oppressive factory owners. In the original incarnation, a wolf plays the villain. Sure, he’s got big teeth, big eyes, big hands, and…well, suffice it to say he’s a menacing wolf. Yet while he devours grandma, you can’t really fault the big hairy guy. He’s just hungry. B.B. Woolfe however doesn’t share the same unthinking animalistic behavior. Our new nemesis is cruel and calculating, lending a new feel to a familiar adversary.
In using a backdrop comprised of traditional fairy tale pictures and forward-thinking notions, Woolfe assumes an old style with a new direction. It’s a neat twist on a classic story, with nods to recognizable literary devices, but a wholly independent nature.